The Prime Minister’s Exporter of the Year Awards is an annual premier event organized by the Fiji Islands Trade and Investment Bureau, on behalf of the Prime Minister of Fiji to acknowledge the achievements of registered exporters in the global trade arena. Rivers Fiji is a whitewater rafting and multi-sport outfitter committed to sustainable tourism practices in the Fiji Islands.
Dr. Kelly Bricker, a Rivers Fiji Director and Associate Professor of Sustainable Tourism at the University of Utah Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, stated: “We are deeply touched by this award and wish to give a big thanks to all our guides, managers, and local communities, who together continue to implement ecotourism principles for the economic, social-cultural, and environmental benefits to Fiji on a daily basis…Vinaka vaka levu!”
Rivers Fiji is one of many O.A.R.S. Family of Companies’ sustainable tourism endeavours. George and Pam Wendt founded O.A.R.S. in 1969 with a goal to help people of all ages and abilities enjoy “the best outdoor experience of their lives.” This Northern California-based whitewater rafting and adventure travel outfitter is recognized as a leading environmental steward within the industry.
By supporting community development and environmental conservation, Rivers Fiji programs are not only “eco-friendly,” they are creating the model for minimal impact, sustainable eco-tourism. With the help of 9 mataqali (landowning groups), 2 villages, a logging company, and the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB), O.A.R.S. and Rivers Fiji successfully established the Upper Navua Conservation Area in 2000. This unique public-private partnership protects the pristine Upper Navua River Canyon from future logging or gravel extraction in a 10.5-mile conservation corridor. In return, Rivers Fiji compensates the NLTB and landowners through lease payments, user fees and employment opportunities.
Rivers Fiji believes that empowering local communities in this manner makes its programs successful. “We have created full-time employment for the local people,” said George Wendt, President of the O.A.R.S. Family of Companies. “In fact, with the exception of our general manager, all of our employees are from the communities where we operate. Thus they have a real stake in the long-term sustainability of the places we visit and in Rivers Fiji as a sustainable tourism operation. Infractions by logging companies and plans for road development through the conservation area have been thwarted due to mataqali alerting Rivers Fiji management and local authorities.”
Steve Markle, O.A.R.S. Marketing and Partnerships Director, stated from the company’s Northern California headquarters, “Historically Fiji’s tourism development has been focused on the coastal communities—with Fiji’s interior populations receiving little benefit. Rivers Fiji, however, provides economic alternatives for people whose previous development options were limited to logging and resource extraction. We believe Rivers Fiji has helped broaden Fiji’s overall perspective regarding the economic value of conservation as it relates to its people and ecosystems.”
According to an article in the Fiji Times, “This initiative [The Exporter of the Year Awards] is supported by many of Fiji’s leading corporations and remains one of Government’s priorities. The Prime Minister’s Exporter of the Year Awards recognizes and honors Fiji businesses who have achieved sustainable export growth through innovation and commitment.”
Rivers Fiji’s mission is to enhance visitors’ and indigenous peoples’ awareness of, and appreciation for the culture and environment by providing activities that promote conservation and preservation through socially responsible and environmentally sensitive interaction with the people, landscape and ecosystems that make the Fijian Highlands so distinct and unique.
Since 1969 O.A.R.S. has set the standard in first-class rafting, sea kayaking, hiking and multi-sport vacations, with destinations and unparalleled experiences on over 35 rivers and coastlines of the world. O.A.R.S. caters to active travelers of all ages and abilities with more than 75 unique itineraries worldwide, including one-day and weekend escapes. For more information about O.A.R.S.’ eco-friendly adventures, including a free color catalog, call O.A.R.S. at 1-800-346-6277, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.oars.com.